Depression and
Mood Changes
Certain infection(s) can trigger an autoimmune attack on the brain, resulting in inflammation and the onset of neuropsychiatric symptoms, including major depression, bipolar disorder and sudden mood changes.

Depression and Mood Changes
It would not be unusual for a person to be depressed or have sudden mood changes when confronted with a stressful or upsetting situation. But when it occurs frequently or continues for an extended period of time, it may signal a deeper problem.
New research indicates that infection(s) and immune dysfunction can play a role in triggering sudden changes in mood and behavior. Infection, immune dysfunction and neuroinflammation have all been implicated in chronic mental disorders such as major depressive disorder, anxiety, schizophrenia 1 and bipolar disorder. 2

Infections can trigger sudden mood changes

Mood disorders, including major depression and bipolar disorder (also known as manic depression) encompass a wide range of symptoms that can present differently in children, adolescents and adults.

For instance, a child who has depression may be irritable, hypercritical (i.e. negative thinking, complaining a lot) or appear sad or angry. While depressive disorders are characterized by depression, people with bipolar disorders tend to experience sudden mood changes, fluctuating between states of acute depression and euphoria or mania. 2

Mood disorders can be caused by a variety of factors including genetics, brain chemical imbalances, life stressors, and medical conditions, such as ADHD, thyroid disease, and dementia.

Get treated for treatment-resistant symptoms

New research also indicates that infection(s) and immune dysfunction can play a role in triggering sudden changes in mood and personality. Infection, immune dysfunction and neuroinflammation have all been implicated in chronic mental disorders such as major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, anxiety and schizophrenia.

In fact, researchers suspect that “a significant number of people believed to have schizophrenia or bipolar disorder actually have an immune system disorder that affects the brain’s receptors.” 3

A nationwide study found that people treated for a severe infection were 62% more likely to have developed a mood disorder than those who never had one. And multiple infections or the combination of a severe infection and having an autoimmune disease “boosted the odds of developing depression, bipolar disorder, or another mood disorder even further.” 4

Immune system attacks the brain

When an infection (bacterial, viral, fungal, parasitic) invades the body, the immune system produces antibodies to destroy the harmful foreign invader. But in some people, their immune response over reacts and their antibodies also mistakenly attack healthy cells in the brain.

This attack can trigger brain inflammation and the onset of psychiatric symptoms, including sudden mood and personality changes. When this occurs, the person may have an infection-triggered autoimmune encephalopathy. Unfortunately, patients with this condition may be misdiagnosed with bipolar disorder, chronic depression or other psychiatric illnesses.

Common infections can cause autoimmune attacks

Common infections can trigger an autoimmune attack. For instance, strep infections can trigger sudden mood changes in children and adolescents with Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Streptococcal infection (PANDAS) .

PANDAS patients can exhibit extreme emotional lability or mood changes, rages, anger outbursts, severe anxiety (including separation anxiety) as well as depression. They are frequently misdiagnosed as having a psychiatric illness, when, in fact, they may have a treatable autoimmune condition.

Strep, however, isn’t the only culprit. Other bacteria and viruses can trigger mood changes. In both children and adults, the herpes simplex virus, varicella zoster, Epstein-Barr virus, and possibly toxoplasmosis have been associated with depression. 5

And studies have found that people with chronic sinusitis may be more likely to have depression and anxiety. 6 Even a Borrelia burgdorferi infection (which causes Lyme disease) and a Bartonella henselae infection (which causes cat scratch disease) can trigger the onset of psychiatric symptoms, including major depression with psychotic features. 7 Additionally, coronaviruses, which typically affect the respiratory tract, and influenza have been associated with mood disorders. 8

  1. Lurie DI. An Integrative Approach to Neuroinflammation in Psychiatric disorders and Neuropathic Pain. J Exp Neurosci. 2018;12:1179069518793639. Published 2018 Aug 13. doi:10.1177/1179069518793639
  2. Benedetti F, Aggio V, Pratesi ML, Greco G, Furlan R. Neuroinflammation in Bipolar Depression. Front Psychiatry. 2020;11:71. Published 2020 Feb 26. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2020.00071
  3. Rosenblat JD, McIntyre RS. Bipolar Disorder and Immune Dysfunction: Epidemiological Findings, Proposed Pathophysiology and Clinical Implications. Brain Sci. 2017;7(11):144. Published 2017 Oct 30. doi:10.3390/brainsci7110144
  4. Benros ME, Waltoft BL, Nordentoft M, et al. Autoimmune Diseases and Severe Infections as Risk Factors for Mood Disorders: A Nationwide Study. JAMA Psychiatry. 2013;70(8):812–820. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2013.1111
  5. Levin A. Researchers Consider Infection as One Cause of Depression. Psychiatric News. March 20, 2015.
  6. Kim J, Ko I, Kim MS, Yu MS, Cho B, Kim D. Association of Chronic Rhinosinusitis With Depression and Anxiety in a Nationwide Insurance Population. JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. Published online February 07, 2019145(4):313–319. doi:10.1001/jamaoto.2018.4103
  7. Breitschwerdt, E. B., Greenberg, R., Maggi, R. G., Mozayeni, B. R., Lewis, A., & Bradley, J. M. (2019). Bartonella henselae Bloodstream Infection in a Boy With Pediatric Acute-Onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome. Journal of Central Nervous System Disease.
  8. Okusaga O, Yolken RH, Langenberg P, et al. Association of seropositivity for influenza and coronaviruses with history of mood disorders and suicide attempts. J Affect Disord. 2011;130(1-2):220–225. doi:10.1016/j.jad.2010.09.029
Sudden Mood Changes

“Infections may be the driving force behind some mental health disorders including major depression and bipolar disorder.” 1

Recognizing autoimmune-induced neuropsychiatric symptoms like depression and sudden mood changes
How can an infection cause sudden mood changes?

Learn more about how infections can trigger neuropsychiatric symptoms

Cunningham Panel helps identify an autoimmune disorder in child initially diagnosed with schizophrenia

Cunningham Panel™ helps identify an autoimmune disorder in child initially diagnosed with schizophrenia

Researchers describe a complex case involving a 15-year-old girl, who abruptly developed multiple neurologic and psychiatric symptoms.

Autoimmune diseases and severe infections as risk factors for mood disorders: a nationwide study

Autoimmune diseases and severe infections as risk factors for mood disorders: a nationwide study

This nationwide, population-based, prospective cohort study examines the link between mood disorders, infections, and autoimmune disease.

Childhood infections can increase risk of mental illness in kids

Childhood infections can increase risk of mental illness in kids

Nationwide study finds both mild and severe infections can increase risk of mental disorders in children and adolescents.

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    The Cunningham Panel™ – Antibody testing that helps determine whether an autoimmune response may be triggering neurologic and/or psychiatric symptoms. 

B. Robert Mozayeni, MD

Medical and Clinical Advisor

B. Robert Mozayeni MD

Dr. B. Robert Mozayeni was trained in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology at Yale and at NIH. He has had pre- and post-doctoral Fellowships in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry at Yale, and also at NIH where he was a Howard Hughes Research Scholar at LMB/DCBD/NCI and later, Senior Staff Fellow at LMMB/NHLBI/NIH. Editorial board of Infectious Diseases – Surveillance, Prevention and Treatment. Past President of the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society (ILADS).

He is an expert in Translational Medicine, the science and art of advancing medical science safely and efficiently. He is a Fellow of the non-profit Think Lead Innovate Foundation and is a co-founder of the Foundation for the Study of Inflammatory Diseases. He is a Founder of the Foundation for the Study of Inflammatory Diseases to crowd-source medical solutions for complex conditions using existing knowledge, diagnostic methods, and therapies to meet patient needs immediately. He is the Chief Medical Officer of Galaxy Diagnostics, LLC. He is a Board member of the Human-Kind Alliance. Dr. Mozayeni has held admitting privileges (since 1994) on the clinical staff of Suburban Hospital, a member of Johns Hopkins Medicine and an affiliate of the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center.

Safedin Sajo Beqaj, PhD, HCLD, CC (ABB)

Moleculera Labs, Clinical Laboratory Advisor
Medical Database, Inc., President and CEO

Sajo Baqaj, PhD

Dr. Sajo Beqaj is board certified in molecular pathology and genetics and licensed as a Bioanalyst and High Complexity Laboratory Director. He has been practicing as a laboratory director since 2005.

Dr. Beqaj served as a technical director and was part of the initial management team for several well-known laboratories in the clinical lab industry including PathGroup, Nashville, TN; DCL Medical Laboratories, Indianapolis, IN, and Pathology, Inc, Torrance, CA. He is currently serving as off-side CLIA laboratory director for BioCorp Clinical Laboratory, Whittier, CA and Health360 Labs, Garden Grove, CA.

Dr. Beqaj received his Ph.D. in Pathology from Wayne State University Medical School, Detroit, Michigan. He performed his post-doctoral fellowship at Abbott Laboratories from 2001-2003 and with Children’s Hospital and Northwestern University from 2003-2005.

Dr. Beqaj has taught in several academic institutions and has published numerous medical textbook chapters and journal articles. He has served as a principal investigator in clinical trials for several well-known pharmaceutical and diagnostic companies such as Roche HPV Athena, Merck HPV vaccine, BD vaginitis panel, Roche (Vantana) CINtec® Histology clinical trials, and has presented various scientific clinical abstracts and presentations.

He is a member of several medical and scientific associations including the Association of Molecular Pathology, American Association of Clinical Chemistry and the Pan Am Society for Clinical Virology. He has served on a number of clinical laboratory regulatory and scientific committees, and has assisted several laboratories and physicians as a Clinical Laboratory Consultant.

Rodney Cotton, MBA

Moleculera Labs Board Member

Rodney Cotton, MBA

Rodney Cotton, MBA is an entrepreneurial thought leader in the pharmaceutical/biotech industry who is known for his holistic perspective, bias for action in the face of challenges, and commitment to agile processes.

Rod is an independent director for Orchard Software, a private equity-backed health technology company owned by Francisco Partners; an advisory board member to Flo2 Ventures, a venture capital-backed healthcare and health equity accelerator; and a member of the board of directors and three board committees (Audit, Compliance & Finance; Governance & Equity; and Quality of Care) for Community Health Network.

He built a successful career at Roche spanning more than two decades and culminating in the role of SVP, Head of Strategy & Transformation, and Chief of Staff to the CEO for Roche Diagnostics, the North American headquarters of the world’s largest ($17B) diagnostics company.

While at Roche, Rod led key enterprise initiatives, such as milestone corporate communications, health equity coalitions, the US/Roche Group audit, and global/US acquisition integrations. With 40+ years of experience, he drove the financial turnaround and cultural transformation of four global healthcare companies, led teams of up to 280 total reports, managed P&L of more than $1 billion, and served as a key member of the senior leadership team executing the most significant restructuring of the company in two decades.

In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, Rod and his team at Roche accelerated six ground breaking products in 11 months, including the first launch of the market’s most accurate and in demand molecular diagnostic test. He also solved extraordinary challenges of product scarcity, supply chain, product allocation, and logistics to achieve accelerated global sourcing and self manufacturing in line with testing guidelines.

A frequent public speaker on health equity and other topics, Rod was named one of the Most Influential Black Executives in Corporate America by Savoy Magazine and one of the Top Blacks in Healthcare by He also received The Sagamore of the Wabash Award, one of the highest Indiana State honors, bestowed by Indiana Governor Eric J. Holcomb.

Rod holds an M.B.A. from California State University, Dominguez Hills, an M.S. in Strategic Management from the University of Southern California, and a B.A. in Biological Sciences & Technology from the University of California at Santa Barbara.